“Trump didn’t fill his rally arena to the more than 19,000-person capacity Saturday night, despite bragging about 1 million RSVP’s to his Tulsa, Oklahoma return to the campaign trail” (O’Sullivan, 2020). Instead, a measly 6,200 attended, as reported by a Tulsa official (Nobles, 2020). One local official stated that they had expected 100,000 people to show up near the arena. Those crowds didn’t appear Saturday, leading the campaign to abruptly abandon plans for the President to speak to an “overflow” area outside the arena.
In the days leading up to the rally, social media teenagers and adults alike rallied together to pull off one of the most epic pranks on the president himself. A coordinated effort was underway on TikTok in the days leading up to Trump’s Saturday rally, encouraging people to RSVP online for the free, first come first serve event, and never show up.
A Trump campaign official told CNN that the TikTok effort did not play a role in the turn out, instead “It was fear of violent protests” stating that it was “obvious with the lack of families and children at the rally” and that they “normally have thousands of families” (O’Sullivan, 2020).
The Trump campaign has tried to blame “radical” protesters, even saying some were allegedly “blocking metal detectors, and frightening some of the President’s supporters from attending Trump’s return” on Saturday (Nobles, 2020).
“Several CNN teams on the ground throughout Tulsa on Saturday said they did not see any prolonged activity by protesters that prevented attendees from gaining access, although one entrance was closed for a brief periods of time” (Nobles, 2020).
Mary Jo Laupp, a 51-year-old grandmother living in Fort Dodge, Iowa, appears to have played a central role in encouraging people to register for the event and not attend. “All of those of us that want to see this 19,000 seat auditorium barely filled or completely empty go reserve tickets now and leave him standing alone there on the stage,” Laupp told her then-1,000 or so followers on TikTok (O’Sullivan, 2020).
“Alongside the choreographed dances, comedic dares and schoolyard pranks, the grandmother’s prompt became a challenge of its own. Inspired users began posting videos showing they too registered for the event. Similar posts on Instagram and Twitter clocked up thousands of likes” (O’Sullivan, 2020).
Laupp told CNN she made the initial appeal “when upset that the rally was originally set to take place on Juneteeth, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States” (O’Sullivan, 2020).
On Saturday night, as images showed empty sections of the BOK Center, Laupp and teenagers on TikTok celebrated. “Gen Z is unstoppable,” one young person wrote on TikTok.
Steve Schmidt Tweeted “The teens of America have struck a savage blow against @realDonaldTrump. All across America teens ordered tickets to this event. The fools on the campaign bragged about a million tickets. lol.”
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O’Sullivan, D., (Sunday June 21, 2020), Trump’s campaign was trolled by TikTok users in Tulsa https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/21/politics/tiktok-trump-tulsa-rally/index.html
Nobles, R., (Sunday June 21, 2020), Tulsa official says 6,200 attend Trump rally as campaign tries to blame ‘radical’ protesters and media for lack of crowd https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/21/politics/trump-rally-tulsa-attendance/index.html